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The Coveted Habits of Highly Successful Sales Managers

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Jul 11, 2019

Becoming, and staying, a sales manager is hard work.  Becoming an extraordinary sales manager is grueling and time consuming.  It requires attention to detail, the ability to have tough conversations with those who are not meeting their numbers, the desire and commitment to grow yourself and your salespeople, and consistent activity and patience.

In this article, we highlight some of common habits (good and bad) of salespeople and sales managers' working today. 

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The sales management activities that we are performing today are creating the results we are achieving tomorrow.  What activities are you doing now that are creating your current unsatisfactory results?  It is up to us as sales leaders to set higher standards for sales behaviors and hold people accountable, so that we get better results.

It is a given that successful sales management requires contributions on many levels:  skill, time, effort, effective execution, systems and processes to support coaching, performance management and recruiting.

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To help understand what makes a successful sales manager, it is helpful to review the Habits of Highly Successful Salespeople. I recently asked the participants of a workshop to identify and share those habits that they believed contributed to the success of their best salespeople. 

Below are some of the common habits identified:

  • Develops great relationships
  • Networks regularly
  • Good time management
  • Gets to decision makers
  • Is selective in prospecting
  • Provides exceptional customer service

Then I asked them to talk about the flip-side of the list – those habits that inhibited or hurt a salesperson’s ability to close more business. 

Below are some of the habits they identified:

  • Sells on price
  • Inconsistent prospecting
  • Procrastinates
  • Presents to the wrong people
  • Sells to anyone that fogs a mirror
  • Poor prioritization
  • Is too comfortable

How about you and your habits?  What are those habits that you can point to that you KNOW have a positive impact on your team’s sales behaviors and results? 

Here are some that I observe and hear about:

  • Coaches in-the-moment to get a deal closed
  • Reports sales results
  • Makes joint calls
  • Sets goals
  • Conducts regular sales meetings
  • Reviews and reports pipeline

This is a good list and with some additions, it can become a great list when we identify the skills of a great Coachone of the most critical roles of an effective sales leader. 

To examine what else you might want to consider, take a look at the following list of elements necessary for successful coaching:

It’s not enough to just have the skill.  In order for managers to be successful at having a sales team built for growth, the manager must be in the habit of using those skills.

Being an extraordinary sales manager is grueling and time-consuming.  It requires attention to detail, the ability to have tough conversations with those who are not meeting their numbers, the desire and commitment to grow yourself and your salespeople, and consistent activity and patience. 

Like the coach of a winning team or a conductor of an extraordinary symphony, you have the ability to positively affect the success and lives of your salespeople and company.   Are you taking the right steps to do so?

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Topics: sales management secrets, sales management responsibility, Sales Manager, responsibilities of sales manager, effective sales management

Sales Coaching for the Sales Coaches

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Jul 08, 2019

In this article, we focus on Sales Coaching for Sales Coaches.  Often, in sales, the sales manager is not held to the same standards as those on the sales force.  While sales people are monitored on their calls, emails, CRM activity, and follow-up methodologies, the same cannot always be said for sales management.

To fix the problem, organizations must take action by understanding the exact qualifications and skills they are looking for in sales management, using the Objective Management Sales Manager assessment tool, and having the systems and processes in place to execute a Sales Managed Environment.athlete-baseball-boy-264337

When you Google "Sales Coaching", what you would most likely find is the following:

  • Sales Rep Coaching
  • Top 20 Sales Coaching Company
  • 30 Minute Free Consultation / Increase Sales by 56% of More
  • Sales Coaching Sales Coaching / Move the Needle with LevelJump

But this post is not about those things.  If you want information on how to effectively coach sales people go here:

Why is Selling So Damned Hard.

Instead, this is about coaching the coaches. Why would we focus on that you might ask?  Let me lean on my good friends at Objective Management Group and John Pattison for some BIG DATA information.  This is what they know, and by extension, what we know about successful sales management and successful sales organizations.

  • When you have an effective sales coach, sales grow annually at an average of 26%.
  • Only 18% of the 100,000+ sales managers assessed, have over 60% of the required skills to be effective at coaching.
  • A much smaller percentage spends at least 50% of their time coaching.

Let’s do the math – if you have 10 sales managers, about 2 of them will be effective at coaching.  If you are looking for a sales manager and interview 10 of them, only 2 of them will be effective at coaching.

THAT is why I am focusing on Sales Coaching for Sales Coaches.

So, how and why do sales managers end up in the role, and why do companies continue to fail massively in an effort to effectively build and execute a sales managed environment?  Here are the answers to those questions, and yes they are in order of likely answers:

  1. Career path – Most organizations promote sales people because that seems to be the logical career path for a successful sales person.
  2. Great sales skills – The ‘career path’ sales candidates have great skills! Those include persuasion, interviewing well, presenting well and negotiation.
  3. Candidates that have a ‘sales management’ resume impress Presidents, HR recruiters and hiring managers with great talk and expertise about performance management, sales metrics, the number of sales people they have hitting  sales goals, using CRM and pipeline management technology.
  4. Companies don’t invest time money or effort to train and develop people to be effective sales managers. They assume that they come wired for success. This is kind of buying Salesforce out of the box – it won’t do the things you need it to do without hiring a Salesforce consultant to customize and build out the tool.
  5. There is failure to hold sales managers to the same rigor of performance management and coaching that is expected of sales people. Sales people are required to report sales activities and enter opportunities into the CRM. With our clients, sales people are taken through a discussion about achieving extraordinary results and building a success formula to achieve that goal. Sales managers do not typically report on the number of:
    1. Joint calls conducted
    2. Pre and post-call debriefing sessions
    3. 1-on-1 sales skills and behavior improvement coaching sessions
    4. 1-on-1 sessions to review the business plan and update the success formula
    5. Prospect / recruiting meetings they had or networking events they attended to find new sales people
    6. Sales management classes enrolled in or books they’ve read to improve skills
    7. Data analysis reports they’ve run to determine how well the bottom 2/3 of the sales team is doing as compared to the top 2/3

To ‘Fix” the problem, organizations and current sales executives must do the following:

  1. Understand the exact qualifications and skills you are looking for in the role and hire / develop the talent that can execute the skills necessary to get those outcomes
  2. Make sure that you use the Objective Management Sales Manager assessment tool to determine if the candidate has the Will to Succeed in the role, the right Sales Management DNA, and enough of the Sales Management Competencies so that you don’t have a extend yourself and your team to develop what you should have hired
  3. Have a system and process in place that clearly outlines the necessary tools, systems and processes to execute a Sales Managed Environment:
    1. Performance management and developing an no excuse sales environment
    2. Coaching for Success
    3. Motivation that Works
    4. Upgrading the Sales Force
    5. Recruiting talented sales people

Topics: sales management skills, sales management success, Sales Management Training, hiring sales managers, sales management tools, responsibilities of sales manager, develop talent

Defining Sales Success – The Art and Science of A Sales Managed Environment®

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Mar 14, 2017

I'm sure someone from the Harvard Business Review or the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business could prove otherwise, but when it comes to defining success, I don’t believe there is an art to it.

Artbusiness.com

  • DeWitt Cheng, freelance art writer and critic, Bay Area, CA: Jorge Luis Borges wrote," Art has become, in the experimental 20th and 21st centuries, impossible to define."
  • Robert Berman, Robert Berman Gallery, Los Angeles: "Reality is by agreement. The reality of art is usually by some kind of agreement. The arbiters are the museums, the museum curators, the people who spend their lives and their time actually being critical of what they see and judging what they see. If you add in four or five art critics who are then able to write about it, if you get four or five major collectors who are passionate about what they collect to patronize it, and several major auction houses to auction it, then a consensus or vetting process begins to unfold."cat art.png

I don’t have the space to include, and you don’t have time to continue to read, all the articles available when I google "What Makes a Work of Art Successful", so we’ll let these two quotes validate that, when it comes to defining sales success, it is best not to be arbitrary or hope for a consensus.

Science Defined by Merriam Webster:

1:  the state of knowing :  knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding

2a :  a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study the science of theology  b :  something (as a sport or technique) that may be studied or learned like systematized knowledge have it down to a science.

It is safe to say that if, within your sales managed environment®, you have "defining success" down to a science, then you will be in a better position to identify:

  • Metrics that determine success
  • What leading indicators lead to success (kind of like a math problem – although there are a multitude of formulas you could use to arrive at the number 4, there are probably only a couple that people would use:
    • 2 +2
    • 3 +1
    • The square root of 16
  • Define the goal to be achieved – it’s a number or a definitive outcome.

But…

Maybe there is something beside the math/science that has to go into it.  I’m not sure it’s art (so I would love to hear from you what you think it is…) but here is what’s been noodling in my head for a couple of days.

This basketball season, Northwestern University of the Big Ten Conference, beat Michigan (Sorry, Jack, Mark and Marty...) with a buzzer beater full court pass and short jump shot.  Take a look here:  NCAA Video

In the aftermath, every sportscaster was talking about how this was the most wins in NWU history, it will be the first time EVER that the school has made it to the NCAA tournament and the coach, Chris Collins, has increased the number of wins every year he has been the head coach at the University.  With the win over Michigan, they recorded their 21st win of the season.  This information would lead us to believe that Coach Collins is successful because you are comparing his results to a standard that is generally accepted as success:  Winning 20 games a season and qualifying for the NCAA tournament.

The head coach at Columbia University with the most wins is Lou Little.  Lou coached the Lions to 110 victories!  When Coach Ray Tellier retired from Columbia in 2002, the article announcing his retirement declared that he was the 2nd all-time “winningest” coach in Columbia’s history behind Lou Little.  When I read this, I was impressed and happy for him; Coach Tellier was an assistant coach at the University of Connecticut when I played there.

What I didn’t know at the time of the article, but found out later, was that Coach Tellier, over a 13-year period, lead his teams to victory 42 times - a 30.7% winning record.  And he was second on the list at Columbia.  Coach Little, with the most wins, had a winning percentage of 48.8% and averaged just over 4 wins a season over a 26-year career as the head coach at Columbia.

What does this have to do with selling and determining sales success? Everything.

Companies collect lots of data and sales managers do their very best to spin a good story when outcomes are not equal to or greater than expectations (goals).  Here are some examples of how outcomes are described when attempting to put a good spin on a bad outcome:

  • We are trending the right direction
  • Our year over year production is positive
  • We are outperforming our peer group
  • We have gone from #____ in stack ranking to #______
  • We will finish in the top percentile of our district
  • _____% of our team will qualify for incentive compensation

Those descriptions tell you nothing about how a team is actually performing.

What to do instead:

  • Identify metrics that are critical success factors for your organization. (In most organization the #1 metric is revenue – it pays the bills.)
  • Establish standards for those metrics that exceed previous performance levels and are consistent with what the market will allow. (You wouldn’t expect an operating unit in Bangor Maine to produce the same loan revenue as you would an operating unit in Manhattan.)
  • Make sure you are looking at execution metrics so that your success is duplicable and you can identify choke points when there is failure.

Do this now:

  • Call me about Scorecards for sales opportunities – 513.226.3913

Topics: Sales Tracking, sales performance coaching, responsibilities of sales manager, how to hit goals in sales

Why Do Sales People Leave Companies? - Management

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Mar 01, 2017

MANAGEMENT RESPONSIBLE FOR A $450 BILLION PROBLEM

According to the article, People Leave Managers, Not Companies by Victor Lipman, the research is unanimous in the premise that managers are directly responsible for the productivity of the people they manage.

Gallup data shows 30% of employees “engaged.” Towers Watson data shows 35% “highly engaged.” Dale Carnegie data shows 29% “fully engaged.” And these aren’t small studies; the Gallup survey includes more than 350,000 respondents and the Towers Watson survey includes more than 32,000. Gallup goes on to estimate an annual cost in lost U.S. productivity of more than $450 billion. This is a staggering figure. Even if it’s imprecise, it gives a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

INTERESTED IS NOT ENGAGED

My mandolin teacher is a better player than he is a teacher. I’ve not had music lessons before so I may not be an accurate judge of what makes a good music teacher, but I have been taught and coached before.  The best ones have always engaged me by first understanding what I wanted to accomplish, getting a feel for my current state (skill level) and assessing my commitment to being better.  I’ve not had this discussion with John at all. The starting point in my lessons was him jumping in and telling me about keys, chords, progressions and scales.  I might as well take Greek lessons.  I was interested… but not engaged.

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“LOSING THE SCHOLARSHIP”

I will not seek out another instructor… nor will I tell him he’s ineffective as a teacher because he spends his time showing off stuff that will take me years to learn while I pick my way through the Godfather Theme for the 1000th time.  Why?  Because I don’t have time to seek out someone else, I am learning something and, most importantly, I'm not going to “lose my scholarship” if I don’t get Country Boy by John Denver.

What does this have to do with managers, specifically sales managers? Everything.

I will admit that I just signed up for the music instructor that they had available.

  • Kind of like a salesperson taking a job and really not knowing the qualifications of the manager that will be leading them to success.

I will admit that I’m approaching music as a pastime and not like my life or my retirement plans depend on my music skills.

  • Kind of like a salesperson taking a new sales role and really not understanding what the expectations are for success in the first 90 days
  • Kind of like salespeople already on the staff that are “at leasters” and aren’t worried about their position because, as long as there are people below them on the stack ranking, they won’t “lose their scholarship” (job).

TWO POSSIBILITIES… ONE EVENTUAL OUTCOME

Eventually, one of two things happen:

  1. The company catches up with the WITALAIITUs and the salespeople get put on PIPs. They respond well enough to keep their job or they immediately start looking for a new one.
  2. Or they get fed up with the hassles of performing better without any significant support, training or coaching to help them get better and so they leave.

THE PROBLEM PERSISTS BECAUSE BUSINESS ALLOWS IT

At the end of the day, the turnover ratios in the company continue to put a drain on profitability. HR and hiring managers explain it all away as “the nature of our business”. 

It’s the nature of the business only because business allows it to be so. They allow ineffective recruiting, poor on-boarding, sloppy or missing solid performance management and last, but not least, the continuation of ineffective of coaching.

3 SOLUTIONS TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM NOW

What to do?  These three things will get you started:

  1. Start with Better Ingredients - Like the cooking analogies I’ve used before, start with fresh ingredients. In this case, I mean start with better people.  I don’t mean people that are just better from a moral or ethical perspective, although that's normally pretty important.  In this case, I mean start with people that fit your culture and will do well on the scorecard for success.

Sample Scorecard For Success:

scorecard-2.png

  1. Have a Supportive Sales Managed Environment® - You have to have the structure in place so that the person in charge of running the show won’t have excuses or reasons to fail.  Essentially, you need to have systems in place for:
    1. Performance management
    2. Upgrading the sales force
    3. Motivating the sales team
    4. Coaching for success
    5. Recruiting top talent
  2. Management with a Coaching Bias - Phil Jensen spoke of the 3rd factor (as it relates to coaching) several years ago at an Ecsell Institute Sales Management Summit. The concept is simple.  There are two factors that most of us rely on to function and succeed – Nature and Nurture.  Jensen suggest that people also rely on a third factor – in the case of successful managers, they have a “coaching bias”. That is their 3rd factor.  They care more about developing people than they do anything else.  They experience success as a result of the success of the people they are coaching.

Additional Resources:

No More Hiring Mistakes. Guaranteed! – http://www.hirebettersalespeople.com

Identify Your Systems and Processes – Sales Effectiveness and Impact Analysis Sample

Topics: sales talent acquisition, sales performance coaching, responsibilities of sales manager

Overcoming the Sales Goal Deficit – The Tom Brady Version of Sales Management

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Feb 08, 2017

Super Bowl LI was something special to watch - unless you are a Falcons fan and then it was a disaster.  You could see it happen right before your eyes. The Patriots struggled in the first quarter while the Falcons had complete control of every aspect of the game.  And then… it happened.

Depending on what expert you listen to, there are a variety of plays in the game that you could point to and declare, “That was the turning point!” Even though I played a lot of football (13 years), coached a lot of football (6 years) and watched a lot of football (50+ years), I’m no expert – but I believe the play below was the turning point in the game.  (Click to view on Youtube.)

Falcons-Patriots-youtube.png

In my opinion, it happened in the third quarter.  As you can see in the upper left hand corner of the picture, it’s 3rd and 8 with 4:49 left in the quarter and the Patriots are down 28-3.  So far in the game, they hadn’t had much success at all.  In their five possessions in the first half, they had punted 3 times and had 2 turnovers.  On this play, with no one open to throw to, Brady did something he rarely does – he ran with the ball.

2016

New England Patriots

12

28

2.3

64

2.3

5.3

0

15

10

35.7

0

0

1

Brady’s record shows that he had only run with the ball 28 times in 12 games.  That’s a mere 2.3 rushes per game with a total of only 5.3 yards per game.  His longest run in 15 years accounted for nearly 25% of the total yards he gained the entire season… and he fumbled once.  If you were going to run the ball to gain 8 yards for a critical 1st down, the last guy you would call on to do that would be Tom Brady. If, however, the game is on the line and you needed to call on someone that wants the ball when the game is on the line - and you want a guy that will get the job done again as he has in the past - then you would call on Tom Brady.

Why Tom Brady?  Well, in the words of Beth Mooney, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Key Bank, it boils down to this – The Shadow of the Leader.

The jobs of sales management (video) are many, but when it comes down to it, the primary roles fall into three categories:

  • Lead for Results
  • Manage Activities
  • Coach Behaviors

These roles make up the cornerstone, so to speak, in our Sales Managed Environment® Certification program.  Everything that you do or need to be doing day in and day out as a manager should be an activity that supports one of these three contributing factors to sales growth.

  • Lead for Results – This requires that your vision for your team supports the overall vision of the organization, but it is also a vison that your people support and are motivated by. Yes, we know by using the Objective Management Group Sales Force Evaluation that close to 70% of all sales people are motivated internally, but that internal motivation is often tied to the place where they work.  They want to feel like the work they do is meaningful. They want to be recognized for their accomplishments. They want to feel that they are making progress personally and professionally. They rely on work to make their personal dreams come true. They need someone – you – to lead them to places they don’t think are possible and to lead them when the odds seem to be against them.  (Down 25 points with 20 minutes left in the game.  No team in the Super Bowl Championship has ever overcome even a 10-point deficit!)
  • Manage Activities – These activities get the results you want. Everything starts with belief and belief controls your activities.  At half time, according to Tom, the discussion was not about “What do we do now?”  The discussion was about “This is what we’ve done.”:
    • We’ve moved the ball.
    • We’ve controlled the clock.
    • We’ve allowed them to move the ball the full length of the field for a touchdown.

We’ve been doing a lot of things right.  And we’ve made a couple of mistakes, but it isn’t like they are stopping us or completely running over us.  Let’s stay the course, do what we do best, control what we can control and - when the time comes - we’ll make the plays we need to win.

  • Coach Behaviors – There wasn’t a whole lot of “in-the-moment” coaching going on during the game. Yes, there were a couple of situations where Tom made a motion for a receiver to break his route and run deep and then Tom delivered the ball for a long gain. Yes, there were adjustments made to blocking schemes and defensive fronts, but those adjustments were easy to execute because of all the practice prior to the game.  Recently, I was listening to a talk radio show where they were discussing how the Patriots go about practicing pass patterns for when Brady has to scramble out of the pocket. These aren’t plays that just happen by accident.  They are due to hours of specific practice where the offensive team run through scenarios they might encounter in a game.  And they have to learn those plays on the practice field so that, in a real game when the lights are on and everyone is watching, they can execute them and make them look “easy”.  That's what Tom Brady and Bill Belichick demand and that is why the team performed so well under pressure to overcome a historic deficit and win Super Bowl LI.

Additional Resources:

Are You Wasting Sales Training Dollars?

Do Your Sales Growth Strategies Exceed The Limits of Your Sales Team?

Are You Drafting The Right People For The Right Roles?

Topics: sales performance coaching, how increase sales, responsibilities of sales manager, teamwork coaching

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    About our Blog

    Founder and CLO Tony Cole has been working with financial firms for more than 25 years to help them close their sales opportunity gap.  He is a master at using science based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss his weekly sales management blog insights.

     

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